Hoops Recruiting: Kirkland To Join Cowboys

Josh Newman has a warning for Oklahoma State fans. The Arkansas-Fort Smith head basketball coach says Cowboy fans should not be alarmed that Malcoln Kirkland averaged just 6.6 points and 4.7 rebounds a game for the Lions last season. The 6-8, 240-pound Kirkland on Monday committed to Oklahoma State, and we caught up with Newman and Kirkland to visit with the newest member of Travis Ford's squad.

"He just turned 18 years old and his best basketball is definitely ahead of him," said Newman. "He's not going to be an impact player but by the time he's a junior or senior he will be much more potent as an offensive player."

Kirkland visited Oklahoma State last Friday and made the decision over the weekend that he wanted to play for the Cowboys. As a freshman qualifier who attended Arkansas-Fort Smith junior college last season, he will have three years of eligibility at Oklahoma State.

"Coach Ford told me they really had a need for a post player and I've always wanted to play in the Big 12 or the SEC," said Kirkland, who verbally committed to Texas-El Paso coming out of Central High School in Madison, Miss.

Both St. Louis University and the University of Alabama-Birmingham offered Kirkland scholarships last month but he turned those down, and was intent on returning to junior college where Newman expected him to be one of his top players next season.

But the Oklahoma State coaching staff called last Monday to offer a scholarship, and he verbally committed over the weekend and made it official on Monday.

"I was really planning on having him back (next season), so that's why I jokingly says it's good for him but bad for me," said the Arkansas-Fort Smith head coach. "Honestly, I told him the level of play in the Big 12 and the opportunity he's going to have to play right away were too good to pass up."

Kirkland never signed with UTEP after giving a verbal commitment because he was intent on playing in one of the major basketball conferences. "Last August I talked with him and his mother and I told them that if he came (to Arkansas-Fort Smith) he'd once again be recruited by some of the big time, BCS conference schools," Newman said.

"I've always dreamed of playing in the Big 12 or the SEC," says Kirkland, who was offered a scholarship be SEC schools Ole Miss, Alabama and Mississippi State when he was a sophomore in high school.

Newman said, "He's understands he's going to play against some of the best teams in the country and will have the opportunity to play right away because Coach Ford has some holes to fill. I told him it's too good of an opportunity and it's not one you want to mess up."

Kirkland describes his game this way. "I'm a post player that can score the ball around the basket real well, but can also step out and hit the mid-range jumper. I can also rebound."

Kirkland becomes the sixth player off last season's 28-4 Arkansas-Fort Smith squad to accept a Division I scholarship. "We were such a balanced team that our leading scorer only averaged 12 points per game," Newman said. "I tell coaches who recruit our players not to recruit by our player's numbers but recruit them by their ability."

Kirkland only averaged 6.6 points and 4.7 rebounds but will be asked to help the Cowboys immediately, especially after the loss of Martavius Adams.

"He's a power forward who is going to play the 4 or 5," his coach said. "What he does is score on the block, and he's a fairly good shot blocker and a good rebounder. Like I said earlier, he just turned 18 so is best basketball is ahead of him.

"He's a great kid. He's the kind of young man that every coach wants to have around his program."

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